HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Jungle Book
HTS Overall Score:89
It wasn’t that many years ago that the idea of a live action Disney adaptation of their animated library was unheard of. In fact, their first few attempts in modern years failed kind of miserably with “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland”. Both were ok films, with lots of style and panache, but very little ability to grasp the core tale they were trying to emulate. However, that changes as Disney got new writers and new minds behind the projects to breathe life in their films. “The Jungle Book” is, in my opinion, the best of the works they have done so far and even surpasses the highly enjoyable “Cinderella” that came out last year. Jon Favreau was a bit of an odd choice for a live action Disney film, but I was won over with the simple charm and delicate balancing of the more serious tone that the book held, with some of the lighter moments of song and dance that made the 1967 film so revered by fans worldwide.
We all know the story, but there have been some tweaks to it if you’re not familiar with the actual books by Rudyard Kipling. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a young man who is raised by wolves as one of their own (a little bit of Romulus and Remus it seems), but his time of living a peaceful life in the jungles of India is about to be cut short. He is coming of age where he stops being a little boy and turns into a man. A creature that is feared by the animals of the jungle for their disdain for nature and violent nature. The most feared and vile animal, the powerful Shere Khan (Idris Elba) has made it his mission to destroy the man cub before he can become a full grown man. Aided by friend, Bagheera the panther (Ben Kinsley), Mowgli makes his way reluctantly to the man village for away.
Getting separated from his friend, Mowgli has to make his OWN way back to the village, but kind of gets side tracked along the way. Meeting happy go lucky Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), he thinks that once again he can just simply fit back into the jungle scene. That is until news reaches him that his wolf father, Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) has been slaughtered by the vicious tiger. Now, Mowgli has to adapt man’s red flower (fire) to his will in an effort to drive the tyrannical tiger away from the jungle once and for all. That is if he and any other animal in the jungle wants to be able to live in peace.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78130[/img]This version of the story tends to be a bit darker and more adult than the animated Disney film from the 60s was. However that is not exactly a huge deviation from the source material, and in fact even this iteration is not nearly as and dark and serious as the books themselves. Rudyard Kipling’s novel was not only a children’s story, but a tale of caution and social commentary on the days that Mowgli lived in. Each of the animals was a facet of humanity and acted as lessons for the young boy growing up. Here those same lessons are adhered to, but there is also a hybridization of sorts with the lighthearted humor of the animated adventure. The singing and dancing is kept to a minimum and the little winks and nods to the songs of the past come as more of background music, or a little mumbling as the characters move along, allowing for a more serious take without completely washing about the classic 1967 children’s flick
Still, the movie doesn’t push the boundaries of its PG rating very hard, and children of all ages should be able to enjoy the live action film without feeling that it gets TOO dark and scary (except maybe for the youngest children). Jon Favreau did a fantastic job at juggling tow distinctly different styles, but the inclusion of some really wonderful voice acting jobs really rise it above the rest. Ben Kinsley is magnificent as the stately and regal Bagheera, and Christopher Walken hits King Louie on the head so well that I’m shocked I didn’t think of him in the part before. However, the two standout performances come in the form of one of the most beloved characters and the most reviled character in the movie. Idris Elba takes the role of Shere Khan and makes it distinctly menacing. His deep and guttural voice makes for a distinctly creepy and forceful persona. On the other hand Bill Murray was made to play Baloo. The veteran comedian has been resting on his laurels for years, turning in oddball indie film after the other (and of course getting roped into “Ghostbusters 2016” against his will), but he manages to bring a lighthearted but appropriate rendition of the lazy bear here (although I still will love Phil Harris voicing the animated version to this day).
Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78138[/img]“The Jungle Book” is a film that is basically pure digital perfection. Straight from the proverbial tap, so to speak. The sun drenched colors are bright and cheery, with a bit of intentional blooming on the white end of the spectrum, but overall a stunning image that maintains fantastic looking blacks with all sorts of jungle colors. The greens of the forest foliage is deeply saturated, and combined with all sorts of earthy brows, deep oranges, and dusty sandy stone shades. Blacks are deep and sickeningly black, as can be seen when Mowgli goes into the bowels of the monkey temple to face off against King Louie, and there doesn’t seem to be any artifacting at all on the disc besides the intentional blooming of the white levels. Fine detail is superb, with every bit of jungle dirt and every single scratch from his trek through the jungle is magnificently replicated on Mowgli’s body. Most of the animals were a mix of CGI and real life animals, and except for a few moments where the CGI trickery bleeds through, it is almost indistinguishable from real life (or at least the best I’ve seen in quite some time).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=78146[/img]Sadly Disney still hasn’t jumped on the Atmos bandwagon, but the 7.1 DTS-HD MA English track is nothing to sneeze at. Subtle and nuanced, it also has the ability to be quite aggressive, with elephants stomping through the jungle, or the guttural roar of Shere Khan as he attacks the young man cub. Surrounds are wildly active with the intricate sounds of the jungle flowing from all angels, and the use of directional queues is done incredibly well. You can hear the birds chirping overhead and then shift as they fly by the listening position. LFE can be subtle, but also shake the ground with intense and DEEP waves of bass (again, the aforementioned elephants stomping around, or King Louie crashing through the monkey temple). Disney has always been known to put out some GREAT sounding audio tracks, and “The Jungle Book” hits all the right notes in all the right places.
• The Jungle Book Reimagined
• I Am Mowgli
• King Louie's Temple: Layer by Layer
• Audio Commentary With Director Jon Favreau
“The Jungle Book” is the latest in Disney’s efforts to create live action adaptations of its animated film database, and is one of their best to date. I still haven’t seen the new “Beauty and the Beast” adaptation, but the Mouse House has come a long way since trying with the critical flops of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland”. “Cinderella” was a blast to watch, but they have outdone themselves this time and ALMOST rivaled the enjoyment factor of the original animated classic created over 50 years ago. Audio and video are reference material all the way, and the wide array of extras makes for a very intriguing package. For those of you who were disappointed that there is no 3D release, Disney HAS announced that a 3D package will be coming later this year. Definitely worth watching.
Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Marks (Screenplay), Rudyard Kipling (Book)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 106 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Buy The Jungle Book On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Give It A Watch
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